FBO stands for Fixed-Base Operator, an airport services provider for general aviation. Some airports have dedicated business jet terminals, but many don’t. FBOs provide aircraft and passenger services, helping you avoid the crowds at the main airport terminal.
Why do we call them FBO?
The origins of FBOs date back to the early days of aviation, when private pilots would land their planes at just about any clearing, be it a dedicated airfield or a cropped cornfield. In the 1920s, military aircraft surplus encouraged more people to take to the skies. Some pilots became “barnstormers”, flying from town-to-town to put on air shows, perform stunts, and sell aeroplanes. Some also offered passenger services and carried cargo but had no fixed location. They were flying circuses that moved on a whim and operated with questionable safety.
In the mid-1920s, the circus finally came to town and got down to business. The US Air Mail Act of 1925 led to the start of the fledgling commercial airline industry, with famous names like Pan American Airways launching scheduled commercial passenger service. As the popularity of air travel increased, the 1926 US Air Commerce Act charged the Secretary of Commerce with fostering air commerce. The Aeronautics Branch in the Department of Commerce established aviation oversight. They issued and enforced new air traffic rules, licensed pilots, certified aircraft, established airways, and approved aids to air navigation.
A similar dynamic from daredevil flying to more formal, regulated and safe flying took place worldwide as air services grew. This formalisation of flight encouraged pilots, mechanics and aircraft services providers to establish aviation businesses at fixed locations.
Thus, Fixed Base Operators (FBOs) were born.
The FBO has evolved dramatically from these early years, offering more than a safe place to land and refuel and a hangar to spend the night. Many FBOs have enhanced their services to fit the needs of both flight operators and passengers.
Today’s FBO services can include:
Short-term and long-term aircraft parking
Aircraft Line services - which clean the aircraft’s interior and exterior and service lavatories
Repair and maintenance
Restaurants or other food and beverage facilities
Some retail facilities
Bathrooms and showers
Passenger services - baggage handling, passenger lounges, concierge services and ground transportation
Airside transfers from commercial jet to private jet
Car rental services
Flight planning facilities for pilots - with access to a computer for filing the flight plan and telecommunication equipment for weather updates
Flight crew lounge
And a wide variety of other aviation services.
FBOs around the world
There are more than 4,500 FBOs worldwide, sometimes more than one at an airport. Many are independent, some are private businesses, and the local community manages others.
A few companies have taken the lead in establishing FBO networks with multiple locations. Born from the merger of Page AvJet and Butler Aviation in 1992, Signature Flight Support has become the world's largest network of Fixed Base Operators (FBOs), with over 200 locations spread out in the Americas, Europe, Africa and Asia.
The choice of FBO is usually up to the jet services operator, who ensures the FBO offers everything required for a safe and comfortable flight.
What you need to know before you go to the FBO
Because FBOs are often located on airport property far from the main terminal, you will want to be sure you know how to get there. Some FBOs offer terminal buildings and others operate from hangars.
When booking your private jet flight, your LunaJets advisor will confirm at which FBO you will meet your aircraft and crew. They can inform you what services are available at that location. Ask them about arranging ground or air transportation to the FBO or any other special services you might require for a stress-free take-off and pleasant landing.